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Our RAP Journey

We acknowledge that words and intentions alone will not achieve the outcomes required for genuine reconciliation. Reconciliation is a process of strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians, for the benefit of all. This journey at DHS began more than 10 years ago and will continue through an ongoing and ever-evolving process of listening, learning and engaging with the South Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Although we have undergone much change within our organisation, we acknowledge that awareness and understanding of reconciliation has not been as consistent as we would like and there is still much, we can learn and do. Our staff have told us that:

  • reconciliation is not sufficiently seen as everyone’s business
  • racism, discrimination, unconscious bias, and resistance to reconciliation remain key issues to address
  • there is a lack of career progression opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, leading to few Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff in leadership positions.

We still have a journey ahead of us and have sought to re-invest in our organisation’s reconciliation journey by fully engaging in the Innovate RAP process.

Our achievements so far include:

  • developing and commencing our Aboriginal Workforce Strategy 2021–2023, to deliver real improvements in supporting the recruitment, retention and development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees
  • committing to increase our percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff from 3% (as of February 2021) to 4.0%
  • spending more than $10 million on engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses
  • embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community engagement principles into the delivery of our services
  • organising more than five National Reconciliation Week events and seven NAIDOC Week events each year.

Case Study 1: NAIDOC Week Event

*Please note, the name of a deceased Aboriginal person is present in this message*

Between 5 July 2021 and 9 July 2021, our staff came together to see, hear and learn about the history of our country and the importance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples place on family, kin, law, lore, ceremony, traditions and language. Many staff took the time during the five days of activities to consider NAIDOC Week’s theme of ‘Heal Country’.

Our celebrations began with a Welcome to Country led by Mr Issac Hannam, a Ngarrindjeri and Kaurna man, who played the didgeridoo for staff as they entered the Riverside Building on North Terrace. Our staff then enjoyed a morning tea of Aboriginal delicacies and engaged in activities to design their own personalised Acknowledgement of Country — a sign of respect for the land, the people and the water upon which we meet and work.

The completion of the Aboriginal artwork in the Stephen Goldsmith Education Centre in Riverside Centre was a special moment for our staff.

On stepping into the Education Centre in the Riverside building, we are now welcomed with Gadlabarti — a collaborative work between Ngarrindjeri artist Thomas Readett and Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara artist Elizabeth Close. The painting features Uncle Stephen’s totem, Gadlabarti; the Native Red-Eyed Resin Bee.

Some of the highlights throughout NAIDOC Week included:

  • panel discussions on what ‘healing country’ means to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; having a reciprocal relationship with country, caring for country, traditional healing and how non-Indigenous people can be active allies.
  • Kaurna Tjilbruke Dreaming Story NAIDOC Week event, which took our staff to Kingston Park Coastal Reserve where they were joined by respected Elder Uncle Rod O’Brien, Adelaide University Kaurna Cultural Adviser and former DHS Youth Justice worker.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories of Pinky Flat by Aunty Yvonne who shared her stories about the conflict between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous settlers, and spoke of her childhood, where she grew up in a multicultural neighbourhood of Adelaide in Waymouth Street, and her education at the Sturt Street School.

Our NAIDOC Week celebrations encouraged rich discussion and reflection and we are committed to our ongoing learning journey.

Case study 2: Aboriginal Workforce Strategy 2021–2023

We want to work to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples enjoy the same levels of prosperity or outcomes in health, education and employment as non-Indigenous peoples and it is incumbent on those who can effect positive change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to do so.

Our first Aboriginal Employment Strategy 2014–2016 built on the considerable work done across the Department to recruit and retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with evidence showing us that achieving sustained improvement across a range of indicators in education, employment, health and justice required significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ economic participation.

From 2017, the Aboriginal Employment Strategy was combined into the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2017–2019, the first of its kind across the South Australian public sector to progress and enhance the many employment-related initiatives already in train across various areas of the department.

We are committed to employing more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, retaining and upskilling current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and creating a culturally safe working environment to make our department an employer of choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. That is why a standalone Aboriginal Workforce Strategy was considered essential if we were to meet our targets.

The Aboriginal Workforce Strategy 2021–2023 goes far in ensuring we consistently monitor and achieve our desired outcomes; for 4% of our total workforce to be Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander identified by the end of 2023 and a continued improvement year on year thereafter.

Page last updated : 27 Feb 2023

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